Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola applauded Bernardo Silva’s intelligence after starring in a less familiar central role against Fulham on Saturday, proving himself to have the “wow” factor.
City cruised to a 3-0 win over their visitors and Bernardo Silva was arguably the standout performer, delighting with his close control, vision and dribbling ability.
The Portugal international played more centrally than he is used to, yet he seemed to thrive in a Kevin De Bruyne-like role, almost setting up Raheem Sterling early on, before then playing a vital role in David Silva’s goal to make it 2-0 in the 21st minute.
Guardiola never had any doubt in his ability to fill such a position, highlighting his willingness to scrap, intelligence and technical ability.
“He can play there, because he can fight,” Guardiola told reporters. “He is skinny, small, but he is wow.
“You have to realise, when there are the balls that are between you and me, it’s for Bernardo, he has that sense of intelligence.
“You need to be strong and fast, and he did it. Of course, he can play there. His natural position is out wide, but it’s important for us to have players who can play in several positions and Bernardo is one of them.”
After joining from Monaco last season, Bernardo Silva initially appeared to struggle at City, generally having to settle for cameos off the bench.
But Guardiola thinks his attitude shone through in those occasions, with the winger desperate to impress even if only given brief outings at the end of the game.
“He had a top impact last season, because he played three minutes from the bench and when he plays three minutes from the bench, he played the best he can play,” Guardiola said.
“Sometimes there are players – and all the managers know – that you give five minutes and they say; ‘now I have to play five minutes’, like you have to tell them to play – he is not that case.
“When he plays five minutes, he plays the best possible, always a smile to help. He is the most loved guy in the locker room and he played 90 minutes. It [a desire to do his best] is always there.”
Guardiola thinks Bernardo Silva’s early days at City are comparable to what Riyad Mahrez is going through following his move from Leicester City, having to be content with brief spells on the pitch.
And the coach is confident Mahrez will develop in a similar fashion.
“In the beginning it was a little bit difficult [for Bernardo Silva],” Guardiola added. “He came from France to England.
“Even for me, I needed a period to know, to understand a little bit and everything about the way we wanted to play and in the way that we are aggressive without the ball. Sometimes we need more time.
“It has happened a little bit with Riyad. It is going to happen in the future. Riyad is going to come back the same like we saw with Leicester, or with Bernardo right now, and that is why I like to work with these kind of players.
“They always try their best, for 60, 90, even 20 minutes. All the time they play with the smile and for himself and the team.”